By now I’m sure you’ve ready my Pulitzer winning articles from Part 1 and Part 2? Good, so I don’t need to repeat myself. I’ll just summarize briefly: I was able to improve performance somewhat by replacing a router that seemed to be failing but I couldn’t improve any more on either of my two routers through either firmware updates or through antenna modifications. The performance had plateaued but not as high as I thought it should have. I thought I should be able to get better results and I wanted to try a bit more to improve things.
I spent some quality time watching Acrylic. Okay, I didn’t just stare at it for hours, but I did keep it running for a while and kept checking on it. The 5 Ghz band was not as strong a signal as I would have liked but that’s a known limitation with 5 Ghz WiFi: it’s faster when you are close to the device with a strong signal but the strength drops quickly. And I can say that while the signal wasn’t that strong in the places I was testing in the house, it did stay very consistent.
The 2.4 Ghz signal, on the other hand, is stronger at greater distances but it is more subject to interference. And I think that was borne out in my signal testing. The 2.4 Ghz band had lots of competition from neighbors and there were frequent drops from both of my two routers. I eventually found that changing the channel on one of them to channel 2 gave me the most stable result. Needing to keep clearance from that channel, I put the other router in on channel 8. The one on channel 8 isn’t as stable as the one on channel 2, but overall, I was able to decrease the signal dropping significantly but just changing channels.
I tried switching the country to Japan and using channel 14 but I discovered that none of my devices would connect on that channel so it doesn’t really matter if there is less interference there. So FCC, don’t chase me down – I just tested it for a minute, okay!?
The WiFi IP cameras and viewer are the devices that have the most trouble holding a WiFi connection. And even after the channel improvement and the router replacement and my other efforts so far, they still seemed to have a hard time holding the connection. So it was time to try something more stringent.
Each of my routers defines two networks – one for 2.4 Ghz and one for 5 Ghz each. And I have historically set them up so that both of the 2.4 Ghz networks have the same SSID and both of the 5 Ghz networks have the same SSID. The thinking is that I only need to tell the devices to connect to one and they will roam appropriately. In practice, I don’t see the roaming I’d like. If I connect to router5 on the first floor and then go stand next to router3, I’ll still be connected to router5 even though the signal is really weak and even though there’s a network with the same SSID right next to it. If the signal eventually goes away, then the device will look for a new network and find the same network now on a different channel. Previously I had even set the channels to the same channel number to make it even more obvious to the connecting devices but more recently I had changed the channel numbers to hopefully decrease interference and I didn’t see any change in how frequently devices roam from one router to the other. So it appears as though the roaming from router to router only happens as a means of last resort – only when the prior network has completely disappeared.
So if roaming doesn’t work like I’d want what’s the advantage to keeping networks with the same name? Being able to only needing to worry about the one network on each connecting device is nice but it’s a trivial matter to connect to another network SSID. And perhaps the fact that there were two networks with the same ID was allowing the IP cameras to roam when I don’t want them to – they should stick with the router that is closest to them since the cameras don’t move around the house. So I have now renamed the SSID for each of the networks on each of the routers to make them all distinct. That means I now have 4 networks in the house for the devices to choose from. Seems like overkill but if it works, I’m good with it. And there is no additional radio waves added to do this – just separating out the ones we already had.
So far, the IP cameras are working better with this arrangement. But they still lost the network at some point. I think the issue may be the cameras themselves. The TrendNet cameras have always gotten warm and it may just be they are due for replacement.
One final WiFi topic – my WiFi networks are really secure with good security protocols and passwords that are just jumbles of letters only I know. I don’t mind telling friends and family when they come to visit because they won’t remember the password – oh, and because I trust friends and family anyway! But it’d be a lot easier if I had a guest network that had a password easier to remember. I’d also feel better about giving that out since if anybody hacked the devices that had these cached passwords, I wouldn’t need to worry about my passwords getting out there. And finally, there’s some extra security that comes from letting guests connect to the internet but keeping them separate from my stuff. Again, I’m not anticipating any friends or family doing anything nefarious but if they have a device that is compromised and don’t realize it, better to keep it isolated.
My new router5, a D-Link DIR-880L comes with a guest network but when I loaded dd-wrt on to it, the guest setup was wiped out. Fortunately, dd-wrt now makes it easy to set up a guest network. There are some helpful instructions for the setup if you have a build of dd-wrt that is 23020 or later. I followed the directions but went off script at one point. Where the setup doc says to create a network of 192.168.10.1, I went with my standard network addresses and that turned out to be very bad. The router seized up and rebooting didn’t fix the problem. I had to do a 30-30-30 to clear it and then load my configuration file back to it. (Fortunately I had make a configuration backup!) The second time I was smarter and followed the directions exactly. No issues and it seems to work perfectly.
So, finally, am I done? Well, like home improvements, it’s probably never done. But I think it’s done for now. I’ve got it working as well as it can, at least as far I can tell. And the devices are all happier now even though the IP cameras aren’t completely happy.